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The Age

Softly, softly approach for old, hard man

Date: 20/11/1999
Words: 863
          Publication: The Age
Section: Sport
Page: 23
Here's a safe prediction for 2000: John Worsfold will be linked to a senior coaching position at some stage of the season. Regardless of whether he ends up with a top job in 2001, he will be a serious candidate somewhere.

It is possible, as Worsfold admits, that he may not want to coach at the highest level. He may not even have the right blend of ambition and insanity for the job, but his profile, successful history and hard-man reputation makes him such an obvious candidate for a job that other clubs will take a close look at him.

Worsfold's decision to take on an assistant coaching job at Carlton greatly enhances his marketability as a senior coach. By the season's end, he will have more experience than Tim Watson had, but with a similar brand name.

He will have many of the perceived qualifications of a senior coach: premierships as a player, a tough guy with peer respect, brains and, crucially, he will have played under and assisted two big-name coaches in Mick Malthouse and David Parkin. Coaching is like kung fu: it helps to have earned your black belt under a master.

Worsfold's decision to join the Blues, rather than Fremantle or West Coast, was a mini-shock of the finals series. The appointment was sudden and appeared to have happened without the complete knowledge of Parkin.

Worsfold was signed to a three-year contract and, understandably, we wondered if Parko was warming the seat for the former West Coast skipper, even if he joins a suddenly crowded coaching box at Optus Oval, where the Blues have also added Ross Lyon to their fleet of part and full-time specialist coaches.

Worsfold says he chose Carlton because he thought that, career-wise, it represented the best option. At Carlton, he would be given ``the opportunity here to work with senior coaches with great experience in the game".

``There was an opportunity for me to have a big involvement, a big input, as well as me learning," he said.

``I felt as though at West Coast I don't know how much of an input I could have had, because of their structures that were in place.

``In Fremantle I felt as though I could have an input without maybe learning a lot. Whereas at Carlton I feel as though I've got the best of both worlds."

It was, as Worsfold said, a big decision. He left his Perth pharmacy in the hands of a manager. He decided to put on hold - perhaps indefinitely - a media career that was beginning to blossom.

Worsfold says his interest in coaching was fuelled by his unsuccessful application for the senior job at Hawthorn. He says he learnt much from the process and found that he enjoyed answering questions in the interview. ``That's probably when I really started to put a lot of thought in to it, going through that interview process."

Parkin, never one to damn his underlings with faint praise, is enthusiastic about gaining an assistant with Worsfold's blue-chip credentials. ``What he's shown so far, he's a very straight bloke, very intelligent guy, with good character, works hard. We're going to benefit enormously from having him. He's not long out of the game. He's played a role in a very successful club and team.

``People said it was `white line fever' but I don't think we've seen a better competitor once he crossed the line, than John. We interviewed all the players and the reaction once they knew John was coming was very exciting ... He'll have to earn his respect as a coach - there's no doubt about that. He's already done sufficient in the way he's gone about footy that will endear people to him."

Parkin downplayed the apparent confusion that surrounded the Worsfold appointment in September, as the Blues were hurtling towards the grand final. ``I actually spoke to him first. There was a plan of when it was going to be done and it was just done at a time when I thought it was indicated that it was going to be done afterwards. I hadn't really spoken to John in detail. We were going to leave it until after the finals. I had no problem with that. That's the club's responsibility to do that."

Worsfold is ready to learn about the caper. He will find out, firstly, if coaching is his calling. ``I'm going to throw myself in to it. And at the end of the season, I may think it's not what I want to do. In terms of assistant coaching, maybe I think if I'm not a senior coach, then nothing. Or I might think, after seeing what the senior coach goes through, I don't want to do it.

``I mean, I've got a fair idea that I'm going to enjoy it this year and look to take the next step, whether it be in a year's time or five years' time. I don't know how long you need."

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